Self-awareness and mental health are closely linked.
The ability to be aware of your own strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, and fates is called self-awareness. In this sense, it’s a personality trait that everyone has at different levels. Those who are more self-aware tend to have better mental health because they can actively improve their lives based on what they know about themselves.
It’s important for you to take the time to think about yourself and understand your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. This will help you develop positive self-awareness, which in turn increases your happiness.
People with certain mental disorders have lower self-awareness.
People with certain mental disorders, like depression or schizophrenia, tend to have lower self-awareness. That can make it hard for them to recognize and understand their own feelings and thoughts. It’s not always easy to recognize when you yourself don’t have good self-awareness. After all, if you aren’t aware of your own feelings and thoughts, how would you know?
People struggling with trauma may experience challenges in developing self-awareness.
One way in which trauma impacts self-awareness is that survivors of trauma may have trouble identifying their emotions. Before the development of self-awareness, we rely on others to read our emotions for us. For example, when an infant is hungry or sleepy, they cry and a caregiver responds to meet their physical needs. Trauma affects this ability to identify and process emotions as an adult by disrupting the normal sequence of brain development. This can lead to difficulty in understanding one’s feelings and what they mean (Walsh, 2009).
Another way in which trauma impacts self-awareness is that survivors of trauma may have difficulty recognizing what their needs are and how to get them met. In order for a child’s brain to develop normally, he/she must receive consistent care from at least one trusted adult who meets his/her physical and emotional needs (Johnson & Becker-Laforet, 2013).
A third way that trauma impacts self-awareness is that survivors of trauma may have trouble knowing how to regulate their emotions. When our brains are developing normally we learn from caregivers about how best to regulate our emotions; however, children experiencing complex traumas don’t get the opportunity to practice this skill naturally because the caregivers who should be helping them regulate their emotions are actually causing the distress in the first place (Walsh, 2009).
As adults, these individuals will struggle with regulating negative emotions because they never had the opportunity to learn healthy coping mechanisms as children.
People who are unable to understand the emotions of others may also struggle with self-awareness.
If you have alexithymia, you may struggle to recognize your own emotions or describe them. You may also find it difficult to understand the emotions of others. This lack of self-awareness may lead to problems with coping with stress and mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders and depression. In other words, you need self-awareness in order to be able to make yourself happy. On the plus side, some research suggests that people with alexithymia can develop social skills more easily than their self-aware counterparts.
Self-awareness is important for healthy functioning.
Self-awareness is key to healthy functioning. We can only be accountable for our own actions if we understand what they are, and how they impact others. Being aware of your feelings also helps you identify your needs, goals, and motivations.
This allows you to effectively communicate with others in order to build healthy relationships that satisfy everyone’s needs. Furthermore, people who are self-aware tend to be less reactive and more open to new ideas, which makes it easier to regulate their emotions and express themselves creatively.
Developing empathy is a powerful way to increase your self-awareness.
Developing empathy is a powerful way to increase your self-awareness. Self-awareness, the ability to understand how others perceive us, is inextricably linked with empathy. Empathy allows us to understand and share the feelings of others, and this skill helps us navigate our social interactions with more grace.
This means being able to see things from another person’s perspective, putting yourself in their shoes, and imagining how they may feel. The better you can do this, the more self-aware you’ll be about your own actions and behavior.
Practicing empathy on a regular basis is one of the most powerful tools for improving your emotional intelligence—and it has countless other benefits as well. Asking yourself “How would I feel if I were in this situation?” or “What would it be like if I was facing what they are right now?” when observing others will help you develop empathy over time. In addition to these cognitive steps, there are many other ways to practice empathy on both small and large scales:
- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes once a day by imagining what life might be like for them
- Learn a few words of another language or dialect (if different from yours) and use them when speaking with that person
- Notice nonverbal cues (facial expressions, body language) and try to match them when interacting with others
- Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Self-awareness is that magical feeling of being in tune with what you’re thinking and feeling as opposed to simply reacting automatically, as if on autopilot.
- Notice why you think and feel the way you do. When you pay more attention to your own thoughts and feelings, it’s easier to notice why they are happening. This can offer insight into how your past experiences influence your present behavior, including those from childhood that might not be at the forefront of your mind in adult life.
- Notice your feelings without judging them. The ultimate goal is not to change anything about yourself but simply to observe how things are presently playing out within yourself so that you have more information available should you choose to make changes later on down the road (like if those self-critical thoughts keep popping up every time someone compliments another person).
Try writing journal entries to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Writing journal entries can assist you in reflecting on your feelings, thoughts, and reactions to experiences. As much as we may wish it were otherwise, humans don’t come with built-in memory storage and playback like a video camera. Journaling is a way to capture specific moments for later reflection, or just for remembering what happened. Either way, it’s an excellent strategy for improving your awareness of yourself.
Spend time in solitude.
A great way to get in touch with yourself is to spend more time alone. Make a commitment to do something by yourself at least once a month. This can be as simple as reading a book, going for a walk, or taking a bath without any distractions. Being alone doesn’t mean you’re bored—it just means there’s no one else around!
As you become more comfortable with solitude, you may want to start exploring your surroundings more often on your own. Go on day trips and visit new places. Take up photography and document the world around you from your perspective. Keep track of what you see and think about it later in a journal entry or meditation session. The more you practice spending time alone, the easier it will become for you when trying out new things by yourself!
Observe your interactions with others.
- Pay attention to how you interact with people in real life, and how those interactions make you feel.
- Think about your own reactions to other people’s actions, even if their actions are not directed at you. For example, think about what would happen if one of your friends came up to you and said”I just got a promotion!”
- How would this make you feel? Would you be happy for them? Sad because it didn’t happen to you? Angry that they’re bragging? Annoyed that they’re speaking loudly in a public space? Feeling bad is okay! A lot of us have feelings like jealousy or insecurity sometimes. It’s good to identify these feelings when we have them so we can process them appropriately.
- Think about how other people react to your actions—not just the way they do react, but also the way they might react. For example: when someone says something nice or gives me a compliment, I usually say “thanks!” But recently I realized that this might come across as self-deprecating: like I don’t believe them! So now instead of saying “thanks,” I say “Thank YOU.”
Notice how you react to certain situations.
To improve your self-awareness, start taking note of how you react to certain situations.
For example, if you are someone who’s known for always being late and often find yourself running out the door five minutes after you meant to leave, spend some time thinking about what your reasons for this behavior are. Some people may just be naturally punctual, while others may feel that their time is more valuable than others and can’t be bothered with putting on pants before they go outside.
Paying attention to yourself can help you learn more about yourself
Knowing yourself can help you make better decisions in life. For example, if you are highly introverted and find working with people extremely stressful, it might not be the best idea for you to start a business selling products at farmer’s markets.
While some self-knowledge comes from our experiences and interactions with others, a lot of it comes from simply observing ourselves. You don’t have to go on long meditative retreats or spend hours each day journaling to learn more about yourself—although those things can be helpful for some people.
Simply paying attention to how you feel can reveal valuable insights into your personality, preferences, strengths and weaknesses, values, and aspirations.
Here are some questions that may help guide your reflection:
- What is important to me? (Consider examining your life’s priorities.)
- What do I want out of life? (Think broadly here.)
- How do I want to be remembered? If I died today, what would the eulogy say about me?
- What are my goals? (Consider both short-term and long-term goals.)
- How do I react when things go wrong? Do I blame myself or others? Do I get upset or stay calm? Am I willing to accept help when offered or try to do everything on my own?
- What is my purpose in life? Why am I here on this earth instead of someone else?
Self-awareness leads to good mental health.
- Self-awareness can help address mental health issues
- You’re not alone if you have poor self-awareness–lots of people don’t know how to recognize and manage their own emotions
- Being more self-aware can help you connect with others, be a better leader, and improve your mental health